Cause of fire at NYPD evidence store unknown

A massive fire at the NYPD’s impoundment facility in Brooklyn appears to have been accidental, sources told the Post on Wednesday — as officials began assessing the potential damage to decades of evidence being kept at the facility.

The FDNY said that while the fire was brought under control around 6 p.m. Tuesday, it was still on the scene in Red Hook Wednesday morning “to deal with flare-ups and hot spots” before finally being able to later in the afternoon to enter the premises .

It’s not yet clear what exactly caused the inferno that engulfed the Erie Basin Auto Pound in Red Hook, but police sources told the Post it didn’t appear to be criminal in nature.

The facility is used by the NYPD to hold a variety of evidence dating back to the 1980s, including impounded vehicles and motorcycles, as well as “historic vehicles” associated with previous cases.

“Securing the evidence in this building is going to be difficult, and until the arson and blast unit detectives get in there and see the damage, we won’t have any resolve,” Paul DiGiacomo, head of the NYPD Detective Endowment Association, told Fox5 News on Wednesday .

Brooklyn NYPD warehouse fire.
Firefighters are still trying to determine the cause of a massive three-alarm fire at an NYPD warehouse in Red Hook on Tuesday.
Paul Martinka

“I don’t know if it was lost,” DiGiacomo said of possible evidence damage. “That’s not decided yet. Again, much of this information is backed up on the computer systems.”

The three-alarm fire erupted just after 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, sending up huge plumes of smoke into the air as more than a dozen employees at the facility fled to safety, police officers said.

Fire investigators are considering the possibility that lithium batteries from e-bikes stored on the premises may have started the fire, although sources said the batteries were disconnected from the bikes and the fire started elsewhere in the warehouse.

Fire at NYPD warehouse in Brooklyn.
Investigators have yet to assess the possible damage to NYPD evidence being held at the department’s Brooklyn impoundment facility following Tuesday’s fire there.
Paul Martinka

“Historic vehicles” stored at the site include the squad cars of fallen officers, including the squad car in which NYPD investigators Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were gunned down last year and squad car hero Cop Edward Byrne, in where he was sitting when he was killed in 1988.

According to sources, the potential loss of evidence would most likely impact cold cases – or possible future appeals. Evidence linked to pending or active cases will not be kept at the warehouse, the sources said.

The department store stores more than 1,000 barrels of evidence dating back decades, including DNA extracted from clothing and other items in the warehouse.

Fire at NYPD warehouse in Brooklyn
A massive fire at an NYPD warehouse in Brooklyn was brought under control Wednesday despite ongoing flare-ups, authorities said.
Paul Martinka

Much of it — including DNA — is backed up in computer files or with photos, as was the case when Hurricane Sandy damaged some NYPD evidence there, sources said.

The massive 2012 storm that devastated the region damaged the NYPD facility and destroyed the evidence stored there.

Measures were announced after Sandy to prevent future damage to items kept on the premises, but it is unclear if these measures were ever taken.

Most, if not all, of the items stored there during Tuesday’s fire are from criminal cases prior to 2012 and have been tested and photographed, so they are unlikely to be lost forever, sources said.

Fire at NYPD warehouse in Brooklyn.
Officials are yet to determine the damage to NYPD evidence being held at a Red Hook warehouse where a massive fire broke out on Tuesday.
Paul Martinka

However, full details of the evidence kept at the site are not known and the damage, if any, has not yet been ascertained, the sources said.

Additional reporting by Reuven Fenton Cause of fire at NYPD evidence store unknown


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